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Brown-Throated Three-Toed Sloth

Bradypus variegatus

This cat-sized mammal, typically weighing 8 - 9 pounds, has a round head, a short snout, small eyes, long legs, tiny ears and a stubby tail. Sloths have long, coarse fur that is light brown in color, but often appears green due to the blue-green algae that grow there. Instead of toes, their front and hind feet have three curved claws that allow them to easily hook onto tree branches and hang upside-down. Sloths can rotate their heads nearly 90 degrees, and their mouths are shaped so they look like they are always smiling. Males are distinguishable from females because they usually have a bright yellow or orange patch of fur located between their shoulders.


The three-toed sloth is an arboreal animal, inhabiting the tropical forests of Central and South America. Their algae-covered fur helps camouflage the sloth in its forest environment. Sloths spend nearly all of their time in trees, descending to the ground only once a week to defecate.


Sloths are herbivores (plant eaters), feeding on a low-energy diet of leaves, twigs and fruit. Because of their slow movement and metabolism, it can take up to a month for a sloth to digest a single meal.

Three-toed sloth with baby

Three-toed sloth with baby

Photo credit: Richard Kok

Sloths are among the slowest-moving animals on Earth; they can swim but are virtually unable to walk. This makes them an easy target for jaguars, eagles and people that hunt sloths for their meat. The brown-throated three-toed sloth population is threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and human encroachment. In addition, their restricted diet prevents them from thriving in captivity.


As forests disappear, countless species are threatened with extinction.